President’s wife visits activist Margaretta D’Arcy in prison

Activist jailed for refusal to sign bond to stay away from areas at Shannon Airport

Sabina Higgins visited Aosdána member and peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy in Limerick Prison at the weekend. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Sabina Higgins visited Aosdána member and peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy in Limerick Prison at the weekend. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 20:50

Áras an Uachtaráin has confirmed that Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, visited Aosdána member and peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy in Limerick Prison at the weekend.

Ms Higgins’s visit was undertaken in a private capacity, a spokesman said. The visit took place less than a week after Ms D’Arcy, who is 79 and undergoing treatment for cancer, was jailed for refusing to sign a bond to uphold the law and keep away from unauthorised zones at Shannon airport.

D’Arcy received a three-month suspended sentence last month for illegal incursion of the runway at Shannon airport on October 7th, 2012 during a protest over US military use. The sentence was activated when she refused to sign the bond and she was escorted from her Galway home to Limerick.

Both women have been friends in Galway for many years, and President Higgins spoke at the funeral of D’Arcy’s husband, playwright John Arden.

D’Arcy’s son, Finn Arden, and two peace activists, Cmdt (Retd) Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch and Niall Farrell of the Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW),visited the prison today. They said she had raised serious concerns about conditions within the high security female section of Limerick prison.

They said in a statement issued by the GAAW that D’Arcy will only sign a bond to keep the peace if there is no direct reference to Shannon Airport.

“She argues that criminal acts are being committed at Shannon on a daily basis through the presence of a US military hub there, which is deeply involved in waging war in foreign countries that continues to result in the deaths of many innocent people,” the statement said.

“To sign such a document not to break the ‘law’ that refers to Shannon Airport, where acts of unfathomable criminality are being perpetrated, would be an absurd contradiction,” it said.

Some 240 artists have called for D’Arcy’s release, as has journalist Nell McCafferty, film-maker Lelia Doolan and former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday, who appealed to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

Mr Halliday said D’Arcy’s refusal to sign the bond is is based on her belief in the Nurnberg Principle of 1945 whereby “individual citizens of any country have international duties and responsibilities that transcend national domestic obligations of obedience to local law”.

The Department of Justice has declined to respond to the appeals, stating it does not comment on individual cases.

D’Arcy, a feminist and artist, is a veteran of a number of peace campaigns, and was involved the Greenham Common women’s peace camp which opposed placing of US cruise missiles in Britain in the early 1980s.